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Cincinnati Reds Top 20 prospects for 2019

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Any reasons for optimism in Cincinnati?

MLB: Spring Training-Cincinnati Reds at Los Angeles Angels
Nick Senzel
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Top 20 Cincinnati Reds prospects for 2019

The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine.

QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS

Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don’t intervene. Note that is a major “if” in some cases.

Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.

Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for.

A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.

Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.

ALL GRADES ARE PRELIMINARY AND SUBJECT TO CHANGE AS WINTER PROGRESSES

1) Nick Senzel, 2B, Grade A/A-: Age 23, first round pick in 2016 from University of Tennessee; hit .310/.378/.509 with six homers, 19 walks, 38 strikeouts, eight steals in 171 at-bats in Triple-A until season ended early due to broken finger; also missed time with vertigo; bat looks MLB-ready, hits for power, hits for average, controls the strike zone, no clear weaknesses; can steal some bases, too; also adapted well to playing second base, shifting over from third; only thing that worries me is the vertigo issue; ETA 2019.

2) Hunter Greene, RHP, Grade A-/B+: Age 19, first round pick in 2017 from high school in California; got off to a slow start in Low-A, overall numbers were 4.48 ERA in 68 innings, 89/23 K/BB but in his last 10 starts he posted a 2.68 ERA in 47 innings, 57/11 K/BB with just 32 hits; season ended early with elbow strain; to this point Tommy John has been avoided and current reports on rehab are very positive, supposed to be full strength by spring; when healthy shows 96-101 MPH fastball and made progress refining slider and change-up; I think the last 10 starts are the real Greene and my only concern is the elbow; number one starter potential; ETA late 2020 assuming good health.

3) Taylor Trammell, OF, Grade B+: Age 21, comp round pick in 2016 from high school in Georgia; hit .277/.375/.406 with eight homers, 58 walks, 105 strikeouts, 25 steals in 397 at-bats in High-A; a lot of fun to watch, 70-grade speed plays on the bases and in the outfield; controls strike zone reasonably, combo of speed with OBP should make him potent leadoff force; good power, too, enough to project double-digits in homers making him potential 20/20 man; only flaw is weak throwing arm; ETA late 2020.

4) Tony Santillan, RHP, Grade B+: Age 21, second round pick in 2015 from high school in Texas; 3.08 ERA in 149 innings between High-A and Double-A, 134/38 K/BB, 146 hits; fastball 93-96 with higher peaks; mixes in slider and change, both flashing plus but with some inconsistency; that said, his command took a significant step forward, trend lines are good, mid-rotation projection; ETA 2020.

5) Jonathan India, 3B, Grade B+: Age 21, first round pick in 2018 from the University of Florida; hit .261/.452/.543 in 46 at-bats in Appalachian League, moved up to Low-A and sagged to .229/.339/.396 in 86 at-bats though scouting reports remained positive overall; stands out for strike zone judgement and above-average power potential, also runs well; defense at third base is very good, even outstanding; can also play shortstop and is athletic enough to learn second base or even the outfield; ETA late 2020.

6) Shed Long, 2B, Grade B/B-: Age 23, 12th round pick in 2013 from high school in Alabama; hit .261/.353/.412 with 12 homers, 57 walks, 123 strikeouts, 19 steals in 452 at-bats in Double-A; above-average power from the left side, can swipe a base despite average speed, draws walks but there’s some swing-and-miss in the profile but projects well as a secondary average hitter; average glove but good-enough if he hits as expected; ETA late 2019.

7) Tyler Stephenson, C, Grade B/B-: Age 22, first round pick in 2015 from high school in Georgia; hit .250/.338/.392 with 11 homers, 45 walks, 98 strikeouts in 388 at-bats in High-A; threw out 26% of runners but made progress with other aspects of defense, blocking, receiving, etc.; maintained offensive progress from 2017, Double-A will test his strike zone feel but power is real and could increase further; ETA late 2020.

8) Jeter Downs, 2B-SS, Grade B/B-: Age 20, comp round pick in 2017 from high school in Florida; hit .257/.351/.402 in Low-A with 23 doubles, 13 homers, 37 steals, 52 walks, 103 strikeouts in 455 at-bats; aggressive runner with more power in the bat than you might think given 5-11, 180 size; controls zone reasonably; defensive tools fit best at second base where he should be above-average in time; good makeup and fun to watch, I like him more than I should given the data; ETA 2021.

9) Vladimir Gutierrez, RHP, Grade B-: Age 23, Cuban, signed in 2016, posted 4.35 ERA with 145/38 K/BB in 147 innings in Double-A, 139 hits; ERA was boosted by giving up 18 homers; velocity erratic, anywhere between 90 and 98 MPH depending on the day; breaking ball is plus, also has a workable change, gets his share of strikeouts and doesn’t walk too many but can be surprisingly hittable if he makes a fastball location mistake; unclear if he starts or relieves in the long run; ETA late 2019.

10) Josiah Gray, RHP, Grade B-: Age 20, second round pick in 2018 from Le Moyne College; posted 2.58 ERA with 59/17 K/BB in 52 innings in Appy League, just 29 hits; converted shortstop with 93-96 MPH fastball, with movement; slider and change-up need more consistency as you’d expect given background but impressed observers in pro debut; may need more development time than typical college arm. ETA 2021.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Washington Nationals
Keury Mella
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

11) Keury Mella, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 25, originally signed by San Francisco Giants back in 2011 from Dominican Republic; posted 3.00 ERA in 108 innings between Double-A and Triple-A with 101/37 K/BB, 90 hits; walked eight in 9.1 major league innings; looks great on the right day with fastball up to 97 along with changeup and slider; secondaries flash plus but are inconsistent; possible number three starter if it all comes together but more likely a number four or perhaps a fine bullpen asset; ETA 2019.

12) Mariel Bautista, OF, Grade C+/B-: Age 21, Dominican outfielder signed in 2014, hit .330/.386/.541 with eight homers, 16 steals, 16 walks, 29 strikeouts in 209 at-bats in Pioneer League; strong track record with power/speed production and high batting averages although contexts have been friendly; can be impatient but makes contact when he swings; pitching-friendly Midwest League in 2019 will be a significant test; tools are here and reasons for optimism about the skills; breakthrough potential; ETA 2021.

13) Mike Siani, OF, Grade C+/B-: Age 19, fourth round pick in 2018 from high school in Pennsylvania; signed for overslot $2,000,000 bonus; hit .288/.351/.386 with 16 walks, 35 strikeouts in 184 at-bats in Appy; excellent defense thanks to plus speed and great instincts; line drive hitter at this point and needs to get stronger for more power but pro debut was successful overall; ETA 2022.

14) Jose Siri, OF, Grade C+: Age 23, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2012; hit combined .239/.294/.449 with 11 triples, 13 homers, 23 steals, 28 walks, 123 strikeouts in 372 at-bats between High-A and Double-A; exciting power/speed combo, 20/20 profile if he fully develops; for that to happen he must improve his plate discipline, which is better than it used to be but still not good; defense is a plus with cannon arm and center field range; high ceiling, high risk; ETA 2020.

15) Miguel Hernandez, SS, Grade C+: Age 19, signed out of Venezuela in 2015, hit .280/.322/.374 with 16 walks, 39 strikeouts in 243 at-bats between Appy and Pioneer Leagues; line drive hitter with good averages so far, not much power but some gap pop may develop; defense draws good reviews for quickness and range; will need to see about the bat; ETA 2021.

16) Hendrik Clementina, C, Grade C+: Age 21, originally signed by Los Angeles Dodgers out of Curacao in 2013, traded to Reds in 2017, hit .268/.327/.497 with 18 homers, 30 walks, 99 strikeouts in 340 at-bats in Midwest League, impressive power production for that context; threw out 30% of runners; scouting reports on glove were rather blah but passed ball and error rates were reasonable for his age; power bat to watch as he moves up; ETA 2021.

17) Jose Israel Garcia, SS, Grade C+: Age 20, Cuban, signed for $5,000,000 in 2017 plus another $5,000,000 in bonus penalties; hit .245/.290/.344 with six homers, 13 steals, 19 walks, 112 strikeouts in 482 at-bats in Low-A; Midwest League sources liked athleticism and overall tools, speed, wiry strength and overall projection but had serious questions about over-aggressive offensive approach and poor strike zone feel; hit better as the season progressed and he made adjustments, .277/..322/.398 in last 65 games; high ceiling but needs polish; ETA 2022.

18) T.J. Friedl, OF, Grade C+: Age 23, undrafted free agent in 2016 from the University of Nevada, hit .284/.381/.384 with five homes, 66 walks, 100 strikeouts, 30 steals in 489 at-bats between High-A and Double-A; 70-grade speed, useful on the bases of course but also in the outfield, good feel for the strike zone helps OBP skills but lack of power may make him a fourth outfielder; ETA 2020.

19) Aristides Aquino, OF, Grade C+: Age 24, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2010, hit .240/.306/.448 with 20 doubles, 20 homers, 35 walks, 112 strikeouts in 404 at-bats in Double-A; big-time power held back by contact/discipline issues although he’s made enough progress closing the holes to merit a C+; even small improvements will go a long way; right field profile with cannon throwing arm; watch closely as he transitions to Triple-A; ETA 2019.

20) Stuart Fairchild, OF, Grade C+: Age 22, second round pick in 2017 from Wake Forest; hit combined .264/.344/.407 with nine homers, 23 steals, 48 walks, 128 strikeouts in 455 at-bats between Low-A and High-A; broad tools with good speed, decent arm and reliable outfield skills; questions revolve around long-term power projection; which would make the difference between being a regular outfielder who contributes in many ways or a glove-oriented reserve; ETA 2021.

OTHER GRADE C+: Michael Beltre, OF; Alexis Diaz, RHP; Ryan Hendrix, RHP; Jimmy Herget, RHP; Ibandel Isabel, 1B; Jose Lopez, RHP; James Marinan, RHP; Scott Moss, LHP; Packy Naughton, LHP; Alex Powers, RHP; Tanner Rainey, RHP; Lyon Richardson, RHP; Jared Solomon, RHP; Bren Spillane, OF; Josh VanMeter, OF-INF

GRADE C: Connor Bennett, RHP; Ryan Campbell, RHP; Lorenzo Cedrola, OF; Nick Hanson, RHP; Jacob Heatherly, LHP; Nick Longhi, OF-1B; Alejo Lopez, 3B; Pabel Manzanero, C-1B- Juan Martinez, 3B; Yomil Maysonet, RHP; Drew Mount, OF; Mitch Nay, 3B; Chris Okey, C; Alfredo Rodriguez, SS; Debby Santana, 3B; Leandro Santana, 3B; Jay Schuyler, C ; Andy Sugilio, OF; Cory Thompson, RHP; Jonathan Willems, 2B

I don’t expect any majors controversies with this one although (as usual) you can quibble about the exact placement of the C+ guys and several of the “other C+” guys have a case to be in the 14-20 range.

The cream of the system is obvious with Senzel, Greene, Trammell, Santillan and India all having impact potential although all of them have at least one question that still needs to be addressed, namely health with the top two. I do like Jeter Downs more than some people do.

I will be around to answer questions in the comments section. Also send your email questions to minorleagueprospects@gmail.com for inclusion on the podcast.